Proceeds of crime used to teach hard-hitting knife crime lessons

HARD-hitting lessons in the damage inflicted on knife attack victims are being funded by crime cash.

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Crime proceeds are being used to fund the lessons
Crime proceeds are being used to fund the lessons

Knife crime is being stopped before it starts with the scheme which teaches teenagers how easily gang fights can end in tragedy.

The Teams and Schemes project has already seen young people voluntarily hand back blades.

Run by the The Prince's Trust Fairbridge programme, youngsters take part in a three-day residential course that sees them attend Glasgow Caledonian University.

They are taught the hard-hitting consequences of knife crime – countering common myths that certain knife attacks don't cause lasting damage.

Colin Gourlay, a Prince's Trust Development tutor, said: "This approach is very powerful, to the point that young people vow to never carry a knife – their attitudes are fundamentally changed by these expert inputs."

Before a talk from Community Champions Award winners Medics Against Violence, a group of doctors who regularly treat knife attack victims and give talks at schools, teenagers attend interactive sessions at GCU.

They are shown computer images of the arterial system, a plastic model with removable organs, and a skeleton with a mechanical heart and an exposed artery system.

Other laboratory apparatus – more commonly used to teach courses in GCU's School of Health and Life Sciences – is used to reinforce the serious message behind the project.

GCU's Dr Jim Reilly, Community and Public Engagement Fellow and Lecturer in Life Sciences, said he wanted to encourage the young people to think about how easily they could be hurt or killed in a knife attack.

He said: "The young people tend to be very attentive and ask really good questions about what we show them.

"There tend to be myths passed around that there are places you can stab that won't cause lasting damage or that the body will always heal itself.

"Hopefully this breaks down those myths and shows what knives can do."

Attended by 70 young people so far, the Gangs and Knives course aims to help them develop personal and social skills so they are able to take responsibility for their own actions and not bow to peer pressure.

As well as the GCU session they hear from doctors and also take part in outdoor activities – such as caving – as a reward for taking part.

Colin added: "These young people are as talented and creative and complex as any other human being and the main way we can help them is to get to know them as individuals and tailor what we are doing to their specific needs.

"Teenagers of 13 and 14 think they know everything so this is about opening their eyes and showing them consequences that, actually, they might not know about.

"This puts them in control of their own actions and we hear after the course that young people say they'll never now go near knifes. We even have some young people hand back knives after a course."

Young people can be referred to Fairbridge through schools, social work and housing associations if it is felt they need extra support.

Some youngsters are identified by their school as at risk of truanting or exclusion and referred to the Fairbridge programme to give them help to stay engaged in education.

Others have already all but dropped out of the school system and the scheme helps get them back into mainstream education.

Fairbridge is an early engagement programme with one-to-one support and group activities.

Every teenager referred takes part in an Access programme of between five and 10 days before going on to complete arrange of follow on programmes.

These courses, which young people attend voluntarily, help with employability, independent living, learning.

Aron Burns, from Bridge- ton, is one of 10 young people taking part in the latest course. The 15-year-old said: "I was shocked to see what can happen to your body if you're attacked with a knife.

"The course was really good at showing us the dangers and it's definitely opened my eyes to the risks."

Gangs and Knives is funded by the Scottish Government's CashBack for Communities programme.

The young people participating in the session at Glasgow Caledonian University are taking part in a Fairbridge 'Gangs and Knives' course, funded by the Scottish Government's CashBack for Communities programme.

The course has been designed using the No Knives Better Lives Sharp Solutions resources to help youth workers develop programmes tackling the issues of knife crime and violence in Scotland.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "Knife crime has been a blight on our communities for too long.

"This Government is working tirelessly to tackle this, and through tough enforcement and education we are getting the message through – knives cost lives.

"Our approach is making progress. Recorded crime is down to its lowest level in 37 years, backed by more than 1000 extra police on the streets, the number of people caught carrying offensive weapons is down to its lowest level in 18 years."

Since 2007, £50million of cash seized from criminals has benefited more than 600,000 young people across Scotland.

catriona.stewart@eveningtimes.co.uk

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